Introductions to theatre seasons should be read at the end of each season. Just as the low tide shows what’s left after the flood, the real picture can be seen only once the end has been reached. The reality always makes adjustments, especially when life turns upside down. This always takes us by surprise, so, to paraphrase Marcus Aurelius, we should seek to fit the drama of our lives into three acts…
The pandemic has made me think about the fleeting nature of some things. Art encourages people to contemplate life through recreating it, but now life itself has become more eloquent than art. Once the forced break of the lockdown was over, we rushed to return to normal life. Useless thoughts were replaced by useful activities and increased consumption to stimulate the economy. But is it feasible to return to normal without consequences? International experts argue that besides changing our way of life, the three months of lockdown have also affected our understanding of our rights and freedoms as well as our working styles. Many people around the world have written about their changed perceptions of time and space. Unstructured time has become unclear, uncontrollable, while the space within social distances, on the contrary, has been framed. All of this has affected our minds in one way or another; something we probably don’t yet realize. Carl Gustav Jung said that images created by imagination can become as real and as dangerous as the physical circumstances themselves, and that mental dangers are much more gruelling than epidemics and earthquakes. Just as the virus has not gone away, the mental dangers haven’t either. Our memory may be short, but we will always remember what we would like to forget. The world has changed, however we are not yet fully aware of the scale of those changes. Are they going to be reflected in the theatre?
During the quarantine our theatre made a break, but it wasn’t a full stop. As soon as the situation allowed, we invited the audience to seven improvised creative evenings, one of which became an inspiration for actress Viktorija Kuodytė’s one-woman show based on Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. Also, we implemented a virtual project jtdigital on our website.
We’ll open our new season in September with the premiere of new performance by Krystian Lupa Austerlitz, a play based on the novel by W.G. Sebald. The premiere was postponed from spring. Its rehearsals were literally stopped while on the road. We were on a filming expedition in Belgium and the Czech Republic, retracing the events of Sebald’s novel, when European countries began to close their borders due to the pandemic. An interesting parallel – the narrator of all Sebald’s books is constantly on the road, going from place to place until he suddenly stops to reflect on his life. This break inspires creativity.
According to Krystian Lupa, the pandemic and the pause he was forced to make gave him an opportunity for new reflections on this work and inspired him to search for a new creative perspective: I was in a similar situation when staging The Trial by Kafka. When I resumed working on The Trial after a break, it was the real beginning, because what I had done the first time was like a piece of a dream. The current situation, if not as personally painful, is more metaphysically substantial.
Austerlitz, a novel that covers half of the 20th century and various parts of Europe, has two central characters: Austerlitz and the writer himself. When Austerlitz was a child, he was separated from his home and homeland. Writing about the separation, Sebald tries to fathom the fate of Europe and his own, as German fate in the wake of the war as well as many it’s victimes. Isolation of a human being in the prison cell of their trauma and nationality was at the center of Lupa’s idea from the very beginning. In nowadays isolated world this circumstance is gaining a new weight in terms of the memory of the twentieth century that’s becoming as distant as ever.
One of the most innovative contemporary Lithuanian artist and composer Arturas Bumšteinas is not only writing the score for Austerlitz, he is also preparing his theatrical debut with the project The Urbanchich Method based on the novel The Lime Works (Das Kalkwerk) by Thomas Bernhard, to be presented in Lithuanian for the first time. Using excerpts from the novel, a quartet of professional and amateur actors will talk, sing and play bass guitars according to the deaf people’s rehabilitation technique developed by the Serbian doctor Viktor Urbanchich, who lived in Vienna at the turn of the 20th century. According to Bumšteinas, the theme of hearing constantly repeated in the passages of the novel used in the performance will form different hearing habits of the viewer-listener. The Urbanchich Method is a project of the Youth Teater’s Black Box platform for young artists. The premiere of the performance in Vilnius is scheduled for October and in November it will be presented at TRWarszawa Theatre in Warsaw.
Young director Adomas Juška, pupil of Eimuntas Nekrošius, has established himself in the Youth Theatre as well as formed a circle of like-minded people. This theatrical season he is taking on Cervantes’ famous novel Don Quixote. For the young director, Don Quixote is a symbol of humanity in the sense that he embodies a universal desire to become someone else, a person who is much closer to one’s dreams and aspirations. However, Juška seeks to dispel the commonly accepted image of Don Quixote as a mad idealist. In the play, he will try to talk about the individual’s encounter with the world that is unwilling to make compromises, their efforts to impose their worldview and values, and, generally, about our coexistence with other people. The director says that his main goal in staging this work is to search for original theatrical expression, not to be afraid to challenge established theatrical conventions just as Cervantes wasn’t afraid to challenge the literary traditions. Indeed, not only did Cervantes defy the literary conventions of his time, he confronted the social mores too. He was a utopian and a ruthless critic of the society. Could it be that Don Quixote’s rebellious spirit is gaining popularity again?
During the coronovirus pandemic, many isolated people were waiting for the isolation to end and wondered – what would happen next? What would the world be like – the same or different, if different, then how different? The theatre (as long as it still exists) should of course be thinking about such things too… Quite possibly our „Brave New World” will resemble one of those visions of the „age of happiness and prosperity” awaiting us in the future… This work should offer the theatre the intellectual-fantastic-philosophical angle and at the same time open up visionary theatre paths, different from the usual ones that keep contemplating the same cruel or sad reality, says director Gintaras Varnas, who is staging a play based on the novel Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. The premiere of the production is planned for the end of the season. In his most famous book, published in 1932, Huxley, a visionary writer and public figure, predicted what the world would be like a hundred years on. Today, this book sounds like a plea to resist the autocracy of the new world leaders and to search for allies in the old world, like Shakespeare, for example...
I would like to think that our theatre’s plans will come true. Be what may, we will try to keep going. Not only for economic reasons. The spectator is of utmost importance for the creative spirit of the theatre. Let’s keep it alive together.